Teochew clan celebrates 90th birthday in Yishun heartland

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat speaking at the Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan’s 90th anniversary celebrations at MPC@Khatib on Oct 26, 2019.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat speaking at the Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan’s 90th anniversary celebrations at MPC@Khatib on Oct 26, 2019.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - One of Singapore's oldest Chinese clan associations celebrated its 90th birthday on Saturday (Oct 26) in the heartland that was first developed by its founder.

The Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan marked the occasion with a night of festivities in Yishun. About 2,000 guests gathered at MPC @ Khatib, a multi-purpose venue located near Khatib MRT station.

Speaking in Mandarin at the event, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat noted the special significance of the venue for Teochews.

Yishun was named after Teochew merchant Lim Nee Soon, who first developed the area with plantations in the early 1900s. He was also the Huay Kuan's founding president.

"Mr Lim was a Teochew, but he worked hard not only for the benefit of the Teochews. He looked at the needs of the whole Chinese community," said Mr Heng, pointing to how the Teochew pioneer also worked with community leader Tan Kah Kee, who was Hokkien, to set up The Chinese High School, now Hwa Chong Institution.

"Today, we should work together and continue to promote and carry forward this spirit," said Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister.

Similarly, Huay Kuan president Chan Kian Kuan said that moving into the heartland is a new direction for the Teochew group that honours Mr Lim.

"We want to work with other Singaporeans of different dialects and backgrounds to build the nation, expressing the courageous and hardworking pioneering spirit of our forefathers," he said.

Among the guests were several ambassadors,about 100 representatives from overseas clan associations, around 500 residents from Nee Soon GRC and also Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, who chairs the government's Chinese Community Liaison Group.

 
 
 
 

Also in attendance were nine members of rival Teochew group Ngee Ann Kongsi.  The Straits Times understands that the Kongsi’s president Jamie Teo and vice-president Richard Lee pulled out of Saturday’s festivities at the last minute, citing other commitments. Members of the Kongsi present declined to comment further.

The 90th anniversary comes amidst a spat between the two groups over the iconic six-storey Teochew Building in Tank Road, which both occupied for more than 50 years.

Last December, the Kongsi served an originating summons for the Huay Kuan to vacate the building so that it can be redeveloped. The Huay Kuan refused, saying it also has rights to the building. The case is now before the courts.

Speaking to the media before the event, Mr Chan said that he hopes for more collaboration between all Teochew bodies as the clan moves towards its 100th year in 2029.

"The Huay Kuan represents all Teochews. We hope to see greater unity among the Teochew community, moving forward to create our future together as one family."